The team’s three drones have helped to detain 39 suspects and find six vulnerable missing people since going live on 1 January. The drones are each equipped with thermal imaging cameras and have attended more than 300 incidents across the county.
PC Vince Saunders, Chief Pilot, explained: “In a very short space of time the drone unit has become an invaluable policing resource. Having that three-dimensional perspective can help officers out in nearly every conceivable police incident – from arrests and searches to crowd control and drugs raids.
“We can even use a police drone to quickly and accurately map the scenes of road traffic accidents. At first, they may have been a novelty, but our drones are now a central part of our response to so many incidents.”
While police air support by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft won’t be replaced, PC Saunders believes drones will become an ever more common part of everyday policing.
He added: “The real advantage of our drones is in their versatility, cost-effectiveness and the speed in which they can be deployed. That means we’re now using them to help in situations where helicopter support just wouldn’t have been a viable or cost-effective option in the past.
“A good recent example is the arrest of a burglary suspect in Aspley. Arresting officers suspected he’d flee so requested support from one of our drones. As we suspected he did run away, hurdling hedges and fences in the process, but he couldn’t escape our eye in the sky. We’ve also been able to locate missing people very quickly – and in one case I am certain we saved somebody’s life in the process.”